Research Roundup: A lack of data on vaccines for pregnant women and children, saliva-based COVID-19 tests, and an R&D consortium
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COVID-19 vaccine trials in the United States, several of which are now in phase 3, have so far not included pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, and only one potential US-market vaccine manufacturer—AstraZeneca—has begun testing in children. Vaccine candidates are customarily tested first in healthy adults, the population deemed most likely to provide clear results on vaccine efficacy and be at lowest risk for side effects, often leaving out younger populations and women who are pregnant. As manufacturers have been starting to broaden their volunteer pools to other typically underrepresented and at-risk populations—for example, adults over the age of 65 and people with HIV—some experts and advocates remain concerned about the lack of data regarding pregnant women and children.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to SalivaDirect, a saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostic test developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and funded by the National Basketball Association (NBA). The test joins several other saliva-based tests that have been greenlit by FDA in recent months. SalivaDirect’s Yale-based research team is now working with other labs to develop more saliva-based diagnostics, including one developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which also received EUA last week. Researchers hope that increased availability of saliva-based tests—which often do not require administration by a trained health care worker and cost less than the standard nasopharyngeal swab tests—will improve speed and affordability of COVID-19 detection.
Pharmaceutical companies and research centers, supported by the European Union (EU), have created a 37-member initiative working to advance research and development (R&D) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Called the Corona Accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE) initiative, the research-focused consortium has three main goals: screen libraries to identify existing compounds that have potential to be repurposed against COVID-19, perform in silico screening to find new small molecules that fight SARS-CoV-2, and apply approaches like fully human phage and yeast display to the discovery of virus-neutralizing antibodies. The initiative is one of several organizational collaborations working on strategies against COVID-19 and will work to ensure its efforts integrate with and complement other programs, with plans to operate for the next five years.